Tuesday, 19 February 2013

SEVENTY YEARS ON: Remember the Germans Who Said No to the Nazis

Sophie Scholl - beheaded by the Nazis, 22 February 1943

It is a commonly held view in Britain and other places, encouraged by some bad historians, that Hitler had the support of most Germans and that during the 12 years of Nazi rule, resistance by Germans to the tyrannical regime was very much the exception.

In truth, Hitler never received the votes of more than 43% of the German voters - about the same as Mrs Thatcher at her peak in Britain (where many resisted and detested her). And it was only the brutal nature of the Nazi regime that managed to stifle dissent so powerfully in subsequent years - under the approving eyes of such noble British supporters as Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail, the Duke of Windsor (who was King Edward VIII in 1936) and countless other "well-bred" members of the British aristocracy, who hankered after their own Hitler and some of whom supported Oswald Moseley's brief rise.

Yet in Germany itself, in somewhat less comfortable circumstances than the British sympathisers of the Hitler gang, many, many Germans resisted - passively in some cases by refusing to take part in celebration of Nazism and its values - some refused to use the Hitler salute, for example; but many opposed the Nazis actively. In total, 77,000 Germans were murdered by "Special Courts" for carrying out resistance activities against the Nazi regime. Given the power of the dictatorship, it was not an organised network like resistance movements in occupied countries later became, but rather was a loose movement of small groups and principled individuals.

There were numerous attempts on Hitler's life by ordinary Germans, many of them socialists or communists, but many others members of the army or even the aristocracy - the most prominent being the circle around Beck, Stauffenberg and others who came so close to killing the Fuhrer in the Operation Valkyrie plot of 1944. Georg Elser, a Communist carpenter who worked entirely alone perhaps came the closest to success in 1939 when bad weather led to Hitler leaving a venue in Munich early - just 13 minutes before a bomb planted by Elser exploded directly under the podium where the Nazi leader had been speaking. After years of torture, Elser was killed in Dachau concentration camp days before the arrival of the Allies.

Other active resisters took less violent, possibly naive but certainly very brave paths to resistance: some gave hiding places to Jews and others facing persecution; while some went so far as to try to agitate for protests against Hitler - among them were brother and sister Sophie and Hans Scholl and their friend Christophe Proebst. They were members of the White Rose pacifist movement which circulated anti-Nazi propaganda at huge risk to themselves.

Sophie is perhaps the best known of the movement's members and for her bravery in circulating leaflets at her brother's university, she, Hans and Christophe all paid with their lives, guillotined by the Nazi state on 22 February 1943. If she was alive today, Sophie would be 91 - but instead, for the sake of others, she gave her life to a greater cause, while harming no one herself.

There is more on Sophie, Hans and Christophe, and a recent German dramatisation of their lives, HERE.

We do well to remember that the Nazis were no mere passing phenomenon; nor that their kind were or are confined to Germany. The bloodlust and bigotry, the xenophobia and anger that fed their zeitgeist continue and manifest themselves again and again in so many warped and twisted ways - and it is as much for this reason as many others that, seventy years on from their judicial murders, we should remember these young martyrs to peace.

Pastor Martin Niemoller was a Nazi sympathiser, who initially believed Hitler's assurances, personally given, that he would not harm the Jews: 

"Hitler promised me on his word of honor, to protect the Church, and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreed not to allow pogroms against the Jews, assuring me as follows: "There will be restrictions against the Jews, but there will be no ghettos, no pogroms, in Germany....(The socialists') hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me."

And as he faced the price of his mistake, the Pastor issued a warning as salient now as then, explaining how it is important to stand together against those who would divide groups of people against each other and deny the humanity of some because of their race or religion, or deny liberty of speech or action in the name of public safety:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

The German Resistance Memorial Centre in Berlin commemorates our brothers and sisters who struggled for a world of peace and humanity.

And so, seventy years on from the killings of Hans, Christophe and Sophie, remember the names of those we know, and the spirit of those we don't: the Germans who said no to the Nazis.

Some of those who resisted (there were many, many others, some known, but many others long lost to history):

The White Rose — 

Operation Valkyrie -

  • Colonel Otto Armster (1891–1957), Head of the counterintelligence ("Abwehr") station in Vienna; arrested on 23 July 1944 and held captive until the end of the war. Liberated but was later arrested and imprisoned by NKVD until 1955.
  • Colonel General Ludwig Beck, Chief of the German General Staff (1880–1944); voluntarily committed suicide when the plot failed. He was to be arrested whilst the other captives were to be executed under the order of Friedrich Fromm.
  • Major General Reinhard Gehlen, Chief of Intelligence-Gathering on the Eastern Front (1902-1979) avoided detection; survived.
  • Captain Ludwig Gehre (1895–1945); executed by hanging 9 April 1945.
  • Major General Rudolf von Gersdorff (1905–1980), Chief of Intelligence for Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, planned suicide bomb attack for 21 March 1943; hid explosives for 20 July 1944 plot. Avoided detection and survived.
  • Eugen Gerstenmaier (1906–1986), Consistory Councillor, subsequently Speaker of the Bundestag; sentenced to 7 years in prison. Survived.
  • Hans Bernd Gisevius (1904–1974), Diplomat, went into hiding, then fled to Switzerland (January 1945). Survived.
  • Erich Gloeden, Architect (born 23 August 1888 in Berlin); guillotined 30 November 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Elisabeth Charlotte Gloeden, wife of Erich Gloeden, guillotined 30 November 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (1884–1945), Mayor of Leipzig; arrested 12 August 1944 in Konradswalde; hanged 2 February 1945
  • Fritz GoerdelerMunicipal Chamberlain and Treasurer of Königsberg; brother of Carl Goerdeler, hanged 1 March 1945
  • Lieutenant Gereon Karl Goldmann (1916–2003) Franciscan priest, conveyed coded messages to the German delegation in Rome. Capured by British forces in Italy January 1944. Falsely accused and convicted of War Crimes but exonerated.
  • Colonel (General Staff) Helmuth Groscurth
  • Nikolaus Gross, Journalist (1898–1945); excuted by hanging 23 January 1945
  • Baron Karl Ludwig Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg (1902–1945) publisher of the White Pages from 1934, arranged the first meeting of Carl Goerdeler and Ulrich von Hassell in 1939, Counterintelligence under Admiral Canaris, arrested by the Gestapo after 20 July 1944, murdered 23–24 April 1945
  • Colonel Friedrich Gustav Jaeger (1895–1944); executed by hanging 21 August 1944.
  • Max Jennewein, technician
  • Professor Jens-Peter Jessen
  • Hans John, Lawyer (1911-1945); executed by firing squad April 23, 1945
  • Otto John (1909–1997), 20 July 1944 was in Spain, escaped to Britain. Survived.
  • Hermann Kaiser, grammar school teacher
  • Jakob Kaiser, CDU co-founder and Chairmen of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (DDR) (1888–1961), was member of the Resistance and close to the conspirators but was not directly involved in the plot. Went into hiding and survivied.
  • Franz Kempner, Retired Ministry Official (Undersecretary of State)
  • Albrecht von Kessel, Diplomat, Mission Adviser at the Vatican
  • Otto Kiep, Envoy and Chief of the Reich Press Office (1886–1944), executed 23 August 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Georg Conrad Kißling, farmer
  • Lieutenant Colonel Bernhard Klamroth, executed 15 August 1944 by hanging, Plötzensee Prison
  • Major Hans Georg Klamroth (1898–1944); executed 26 August 1944 by hanging, Plötzensee Prison
  • Captain Friedrich Karl Klausing (1920–1944)
  • Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin, Diplomat (1890–1945) Executed 16 April 1945[5]
  • Lieutenant Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin Born in 1922, the last surviving member of 20 July plot.
  • Major Gerhard Knaack
  • Dr. Hans Koch, lawyer (1893–1945); murdered by a Sonderkommando April 24, 1945.
  • Heinrich Körner, Union Leader
  • Lieutenant Commander Alfred Kranzfelder (1908-1944); executed by hanging 10 August 1944
  • Richard Kuenzer, Councillor
  • Major Joachim Kuhn, (1913–1994)
  • Elise Auguste Kutznitzki, née von Liliencron
  • Elizabeth Kuznitzky, (1878-1944), guillotined 30 November 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Hermann Maaß (1897-1944), Leading Social Democrat, executed 20 October 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Colonel Count Rudolf Graf von Marogna-Redwitz (1886-1944), executed 12 October 1944, Plötzensee prison
  • Karl Marks, Merchant
  • Michael Graf von Matuschka (1888-1944), District President; executed 14 September 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Colonel Joachim Meichßner, (1906-1944); executed 29 September 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Lieutenant Colonel (General Staff) Karl Michel
  • Carlo Mierendorff, SPD (1897–1943)
  • Joseph Müller, Catholic Priest, Dissident but not connected to July 1944 Plot. Executed 11 September 1944, Brandenburg-Gőrden prison
  • Dr. Otto Müller, Prelate
  • Herbert Mumm von Schwarzenstein, Legation Councillor
  • Lieutenant Colonel Ernst Munziger
  • Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, lawyer (1907-1945); executed 23 January 1945.
  • Arthur Nebe, Head of the National Police, commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe B (1994-1945); executed 2 March 1945, Plötzensee prison
  • Wilhelm zur Nieden, Local Government Building Officer, shot by Gestapo 23 April 1945
  • Major (General Staff) Hans-Ulrich von Oertzen (1915-1944); committed suicide 21 July 1944
  • General Friedrich Olbricht (1880–1944) Executed on orders of Colonel General Fromm, 20 July 1944[18]
  • Major General Hans Oster (1888-1945); hanged at Flossenburg with Admiral Canaris, 9 April 1945[6]
  • Cuno Raabe, Lawyer (1888–1971)
  • General Friedrich von Rabenau (1884-1945), executed 15 April 1945, Flossenbŭrg concentration camp
  • Lieutenant Colonel (General Staff) Karl Ernst Rathgens
  • Professor Adolf Reichwein (1898-1944) Leading Social Democrat, executed 20 October 1944, Plőtzensee prison
  • Colonel Baron Alexis Freiherr von Roenne, executed 12 October 1944, Plőtzensee prison
  • General Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel (1891-1944), Wermacht's most celebrated commander, forced by Hitler to commit suicide 14 October 1944.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Gustav Tellgmann
  • Elisabeth von Thadden (1890-1944); headmistress of a boarding school, executed 8 September 1944 Plötzensee Prison, not conneted to the 20 July plot.
  • Lieutenant General Fritz Thiele (1894-1944); executed 4 September 1944, Plötzensee prison
  • Major Busso Thoma (1899-1945); executed by hanging 23 January 1945, Plötzensee prison
  • General Georg Thomas (1890-1946); involved in earlier (1938-1939) plots but not 1944 plot. Arrested, sent to concentration camps but survived. Died in Allied custody in 1946.
  • General Karl Freiherr von Thüngen (1993-1944); executed by firing squad 24 October 1944
  • Lieutenant Colonel Gerd von Tresckow
  • Major General Henning von Tresckow (1901–1944), committed suicide 21 July 1944
  • Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909-1944); Legation Councillor, executed 26 August 1944, Plötzensee prison
Carl Wentzel at his trial
Carl Wentzel appearing before theVolksgerichtshof.
  • General quartermaster of the army Eduard Wagner
  • Colonel Siegfried Wagner (1894-1944), supplied a plane for von Stauffenberg; committed suicide 26 August 1944
  • Chaplain Hermann Josef Wehrle (1999-1944); executed 14 September 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Carl Wentzel, (1875–1944); executed 20 December 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Joachim von Willisen (1900-1983); Public official, arrested but lacking proof of involvement, released; survivied
  • Josef Wirmer (1899-1944); Lawyer, executed 8 September 1944, Plötzensee Prison
  • Oswald Wiersich, Labour Union Leader, executed 1 March 1945, Plötzensee Prison
  • Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben (1981-1944); The highest ranking general actively involved; executed 8 August 1944, Plötzensee Prison


With acknowledgements to Wikipedia for many of these names and links.

1 comment:

  1. You've missed the line "When they came for the Catholics,
    I remained silent; I wasn't a Catholic.

    The Encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge", signed by Pope Pius XI, attacked National Socialism and Hitler himself. The Nazis a long series of immorality trials of the lower Catholic clergy.